In a not-too-distant future universe- or I don’t know, maybe it’s way in the distance – Mateo Torrez gets the call everyone dreads:
…I regret to inform you that sometime in the next twenty-four hours you’ll be meeting an untimely death. And while there isn’t anything we can do to suspend that, you still have a chance to live.
Mateo is only seventeen and he certainly doesn’t want to die.
Neither does eighteen-year-old Rufus Emeterio. He gets the call as he’s beating the snot out of Peck, his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend.
Death-Cast makes the call, but they can’t tell you anything more than sometime in the next twenty-four hours your number is up. That’s the premise of Adam Silvera’s philosophically astute and heart-breaking YA novel, They Both Die at the End.
Mateo and Rufus came from vastly different worlds. Mateo is introverted and lives his life from the safety of his apartment. His father in in the hospital in a coma; his best friend, Lidia and her infant daughter, Penny, are his closest friends. Rufus lives in a group home. His family had received the Death-Cast call and perished. He has a new family, now, a rag-tag group of foster kids and the foster parents who love them. Despite the fact that he was beating someone up when we meet him, he is a sweet and thoughtful kid.
Mateo and Rufus meet via the Last Friend App, an app “designed for lonely Deckers and for any good soul who wants to keep a Decker company in their final hours.” (Decker meaning those on deck to die). Although the boys come from vastly different worlds, their one night together opens them up to life’s possibilities in ways neither could have imagined.
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Mot people exist, that’s all.” Oscar Wilde
That’s the quote that opens this much-lauded novel. It’s so true, isn’t it? We hide behind our phones, we curate our lives for social media (just look at pictures of people at concerts; everyone is holding up a phone to video the performance rather than enjoying it in the moment.) We collect stuff, not memories. We don’t really talk to each other anymore. With the specter of the end hanging over their heads, Mateo and Rufus spend the day criss-crossing NYC, having meaningful moments with their loved ones and moments of introspection with themselves.
Thornton Wilder warned audiences back in the 1930s that life was “too wonderful for anybody to realize.” In his play, Our Town, Emily asks the Stage Manager if “any human beings ever realize life while they live it? – every, every minute.” I think Mateo and Rufus would have appreciated Wilder’s sentiment.
I truly fell in love with these characters, and I kept thinking “surely they’re not going to die” but the book’s title is not misleading. Silvera’s novel is outstanding and I highly recommend it.